Man prays to Jesus against a pink wall, Cartagena
Some 80% of Colombians are Catholic. I am not religious. Adamantly atheist in fact. Yet when I saw this man praying to Jesus in an alcove of the Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría de Cartagena de Indias in old Cartagena I was mesmerized. As an atheist religion seems irrational. But a conversation with god seemed perfectly rational.
Simón Bolívar, el Libertador
Simón José Antonio de la Santísma Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios, otherwise known as Simón Bolívar, was responsible for ousting the Spanish from the northern cone of South America. El Libertdador, the liberator, oversaw the creation of Gran Colombia, a federation that consisted of modern day Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador. His statues can be seen in plazas all over Colombia.
Salsa may be synonymous with Colombia, but there are many other genres: Cumbia, Vallenato, Porro, Champeta, Currolao, Bambuco, Jorropo to name a few. Colombia is a melting pot of Indigenous, African, and European musical traditions. I was asked to dance one night and I shyly replied—I don’t know how. No importa, no importa, it doesn’t matter! If you can walk you can dance.
Bogotá is known today for its murals and street art. But in 2011 a young graffiti artist, Diego Felipe Becerra, was shot by police when creating an image of Felix the Cat on the walls of an underpass. The public was outraged and Gustavo Petro, then mayor of Bogotá, issued a decree to decriminalize graffiti and street art painting to help promote what was seen as a new form of artistic and cultural expression.
Gold enticed the Spaniards to invade the New World. El Dorado, the golden one, was the hallucination of wealth and power that propelled the Conquistadores through Central and South America. The Muisca people of the central Andean highlands of present-day Colombia’s Sierra Oriental may or may not have enticed the Spanish with their city Bacatá, present day Bogotá. Their gold working skills were noteworthy.
By some counts Colombia has 85 ethnic groups, consisting of Amerindian, African, and European/Middle Eastern descendants, as well as mixtures thereof. When the Spanish came to the Muisca city of Bacatá, in the altiplano of central Colombia, they destroyed it and built their own city, which they called Bogotá. Today Bogotá is a city of 8 million people and has no growth boundaries, pushing the Muisca out of their traditional lands.